Game Day: Wholly challenged, Batman

Justin Hoeger
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)


PUBLISHER: Eidos Interactive

SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 3,

also for Microsoft Xbox 360, PC

PRICE: $59.99 ($49.99 for PC)


"Batman: Arkham Asylum" isn't just a great superhero game — it's a great game, period. It plays largely like a combination of "Metroid Prime" and "Splinter Cell" with an emphasis on stealth and exploration over combat, though there is plenty of fighting.

As the game begins, Batman is returning a handcuffed Joker to Arkham Asylum after an attack on the mayor by the deranged criminal. But the Joker is soon free again, and the asylum is overrun by his army of goons. His own capture was part of a plan to trap Batman on Arkham Island to face an array of his worst enemies, among them Bane, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Scarecrow.

The game looks great, and the environment is dark and decrepit — and not just because the game takes place at night. This Arkham and the characters in it feel like "Batman: The Animated Series" by way of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," not least because several key parts are voiced by actors from the cartoon: Kevin Conroy is Batman, Mark Hamill returns as the Joker, and Arleen Sorkin reprises Harley Quinn. Hamill is in especially fine form, and the new voices are fitting as well.

Batman is in for a long night. The Caped Crusader is underequipped for the job — he starts with his grapple gun, unlimited Batarangs and the scanners in his cowl, which can be calibrated to track clue trails.

He'll find more of his wonderful toys – such as a claw that can rip out vent grates from a distance, and explosive gel that blasts holes in weak walls — allowing him to bypass obstacles and reach new areas.

As Batman defeats enemies and solves puzzles, he'll earn experience points that allow him to choose upgrades for his moves and gear.

Batman's formidable hand-to-hand skills are on full display here; his methods are nonlethal but highly effective. On the ground, he can quickly strike in any direction, counter or leap out of the way of incoming attacks, swing his cape for a stunning blow, and employ various other moves. Some of his tools double as weapons, and he can strike from above to string up his enemies, glide in for kicks and so on.

Regular foes don't pose much of a threat unless in large numbers, but those with guns can take Batman out quickly if he's seen. Stealth is best.

The asylum is a sprawling complex with catacombs and several buildings, and Batman will make his way through them all. Each of the game's rooms is something of a puzzle — for example, in some areas, he'll have to figure out how to get past poison gas, while in others, he'll have to defeat a half-dozen goons without being detected to save hostages.





Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.